Category Archives: Mutual Fund Commentary

July 1, 2024

By David Snowball

Dear friends,

Welcome to Really, Really Summer … and to the July issue of Mutual Fund Observer.

Summertime is an especially blessed and cursed interval for those of us who teach. On the one hand, we’re mostly freed from the day-to-day obligation to be in the classroom. Some of us write, some travel, and some undertake “such other duties as may from time to time be assigned” by our colleges. On the other hand, we hear the clock ticking. All year long, as we try to face down a stack of 32 variably literate essays at 11 p.m. Sunday night, we think “If I can just make it to summer, I’ll Continue reading →

Morningstar Celebrates 40th Year – MICUS Chicago 2024

By Charles Boccadoro

Morningstar held its annual investment conference [Morningstar Investment Conference US (MICUS) 2024] last week in Chicago, on 26 and 27 June. It employed a new venue and conference schedule: The Navy Pier and a chock-full, two-day agenda. The 292-foot-wide Pier, which opened originally in 1916, and was “built by the city for the people, is the largest in the world, projecting east 3,040 feet into Lake Michigan. It remains the longest public pier in the world today.”

The occasion also Continue reading →

Families you can trust

By David Snowball

Fund families that get it right, over and over

Briefly brilliant performance isn’t all the tough. It requires rather more luck the skill and it can be wildly profitable for the adviser, though deadly for the investors. ARK Innovation ETF is, of course, the current poster child for boom-then-bust. The fund posted triple-digit returns in 2020, saw its assets explode then promptly (and predictably) crashed. Anyone who bought five years ago and has devoutly held on has lost 1% annually and has trailed 99.9% of all similar investors. Those who bought at the peak three years ago have clocked annual Continue reading →

Firms with 100% 10-year Success Rates

By David Snowball

Firms with 100% 5- and 10-Year Success Ratios

No liquidations, no mergers, and 100% of funds posted above-average returns. Of the 68 firms with a 100% 10-year success rate, 41 also have a perfect five-year record.

  Firm Success Ratio 10-Year Firm Success Ratio 5-Year # of funds
Appleseed 100 100 1
Auer 100 100 1
Bretton Fund 100 100 1
Caldwell & Orkin 100 100 1
Cantor Fitzgerald 100 100 2
Changing Parameters 100 100 1
Channel Investment Partners 100 100 1
Clark Fork 100 100 1
Cook & Bynum Capital 100 100 1
Disciplined Growth Investors (DGI) 100 100 1
Dodge & Cox 100 100 6
Equity Investment 100 100 1
First Foundation 100 100 2
Freedom 100 100 1
Hamlin Capital Management 100 100 1
Hillman 100 100 1
Hood River Capital Management 100 100 1
Investment House 100 100 1
Ironclad Funds 100 100 1
Kopernik 100 100 2
Lyrical Partners 100 100 1
MainGate Funds 100 100 1
Matisse Funds 100 100 1
Meehan Focus 100 100 1
Moncapfund 100 100 1
Needham 100 100 3
New Alternatives 100 100 1
OCM 100 100 1
Otter Creek 100 100 1
Payson 100 100 1
Performance Trust Asset Management 100 100 3
Port Street Investments 100 100 1
Private Capital Management 100 100 1
Seafarer 100 100 1
Smead 100 100 2
Sound Shore 100 100 1
Sparrow 100 100 1
Stringer Asset Management 100 100 1
Teberg 100 100 1
Terra Firma Asset Management 100 100 1
Vericimetry 100 100 1

Firms with 100% 10-year success rates, but slippage over the past five years

Inevitably some of the 10-year winners have tailed off more recently. It’s reassuring that only 17 of 68 funds (25%) have tailed off badly, with fewer than half of their 10-year funds still thriving.

  Firm Success Ratio 10-Year Firm Success Ratio 5-Year
Fuller & Thaler 100 83
WCM Investment Management 100 75
Bridge Builder 100 75
Grandeur Peak 100 71
Trillium 100 50
Prospector 100 50
Medalist Partner 100 50
Jensen 100 50
Campbell & Company 100 33
Oakhurst 100 25
Swan Wealth Advisors 100 20
Reaves 100 0
Polen Capital 100 0
Polaris Capital Management 100 0
MP 63 100 0
MAI 100 0
Long Short 100 0
Lisanti Capital Growth 100 0
JAG Capital Management 100 0
EIP Funds 100 0
Edgewood 100 0
Copley 100 0
Conestoga 100 0
Clifford Capital 100 0
BBW Capital 100 0
Akre 100 0


If Berkshire Hathaway was a mutual fund, what would it be?

By Charles Lynn Bolin

My largest holding by far is an actively managed, total stock market fund of funds with a tilt toward large-cap growth stocks.  According to, the Price-to-earnings ratio of the S&P 500 is 28.5 which is 50% higher than the average of 19.8 since 1970 and higher than 80% of the years since 1970. Table #1 shows the price-to-earnings ratio of Vanguard sectors and style exchange-traded funds. While most sectors are Continue reading →

Artisan Partners and the international investing conundrum

By Devesh Shah

International Investing in Theory

Sometimes I wish I lived in Theory. In Theory, investing is such a reasonable, predictable activity. Theoretical Investors know that they’re buying pieces of a company’s future earnings stream. And, being rational, they know that they’re better off buying $1 worth of future earnings for $0.60 rather than for $0.90. In Theory, investors will logically and smoothly migrate from high-cost providers to low-cost providers of an earnings stream.

In Theory, if investors Continue reading →

The Most Consistent Winners, 2013-2024

By David Snowball

Our colleague Devesh Shah has been in search of a reason to have any direct international exposure. That is, for an answer to the question, “Why should I invest one cent in an international equity fund?” He notes that the default for many endowment portfolios is 18% international, but that – over the course of the 21st century so far – the actual efficient frontier portfolio held only 5% international equity.

International stocks are 40% of the total global capitalization. They are Continue reading →

Briefly Noted

By TheShadow


Effective June 3, 2024, David Baron and Michael Baron became Co-Presidents of Baron WealthBuilder Funds and of Baron Asset Management. Ron Baron remains Chairman, CEO, and Portfolio Manager.

On or about August 28, 2024, IQ Winslow Large Cap Growth ETF and IQ Winslow Focused Large Cap Growth ETF will change from semi-transparent active ETFs to fully transparent active ETFs which will publicly disclose all of its actual portfolio holdings on a daily basis. Continue reading →

June 1, 2024

By David Snowball

Dear friends,

It’s been a whirlwind month for us. In just about 30 days, I got married (waves to Chip!), finished my 68th trip around the big ball o’ fire in the sky, bade farewell to my 40th group of seniors (just a heads up, world. They’re coming for you!), visited with the managers from FPA (really, if you put Mr. Scruggs in a cardigan he’d totally rock the Mr. Rogers’ look), watched the Dow hit 40,000 and visited my brothers and sisters in Pittsburgh for the first time in two years.

Continue reading →

To Augustana’s class of 2024: money is not your master

By David Snowball

Hi, guys.

You made it. You survived Covid and being kicked off campus midway through spring of your freshman year. You survived a year of Zoom. You survived that weird casserole the dining commons kept serving. You survived me. And, at the end of it, you were standing together, laughing and glowing. We’re incredibly proud of you and hopeful for the good you can do in the world.

I’ve never aspired to deliver a “last lecture” for graduates, but you might consider Continue reading →

Asset Allocation & International Equities, Part I: What is the right percentage allocation?

By Devesh Shah

Introduction: “Can you improve the returns of this endowment portfolio?”

In late 2022, I became a trustee of a private school endowment and was asked to join the investment committee. The committee consisted of a dedicated group of trustees with prudent investment sense. Although there were no permanent employees to manage the investment, a number of decisions had made the job manageable. The endowment worked with a sharp financial fiduciary who advised and then carried out the committee’s decisions.

Broadly speaking, the endowment had followed David Swensen’s Yale public model. Market timing and stock picking were completely avoided. Asset Allocation, Continue reading →

FPA Queens Road Small Cap Value (QRSVX)

By David Snowball

Objective and strategy

The fund seeks capital appreciation by investing in the stocks or preferred shares of U.S. small-cap companies. The manager pursues a sort of “quality value” strategy: he seeks high-quality firms (strong balance sheets and strong management teams) whose stocks are undervalued (based, initially, on price/earnings and price-to-cash flow metrics). Because it is willing to hold companies as their market cap rises, the portfolio has about 9% invested in mid-cap stocks that it bought when they were small caps.

In general the portfolio holds Continue reading →

Fund Family Performance for Equity ETFs

By Charles Lynn Bolin

I went on a Bucket List Adventure to Yellowstone National Park last month and stayed at the historic Old Faithful Inn built in 1904. We saw the geysers, the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone with its beautiful falls, majestic bison with their calves, powerful grizzly bears with their cubs, and a coyote crossing through a congested intersection without concern for the traffic.

The other adventure that I went on last month was to take a deeper dive into “Fund Family” performance for exchange-traded funds that invest in domestic equities, global and international equities, and emerging market equities. The concept is Continue reading →

Briefly Noted

By TheShadow


Morningstar expresses concerns with Akre Focus (AKREX).

On March 31, 2024, this portfolio had double-digit stakes in four different stocks … Such hefty positions aren’t the only concerns here, though. The transition from firm founder Chuck Akre to younger managers and analysts has been rocky, featuring several unexpected departures. The investment team currently consists only of manager John Neff and two research analysts.

There has been a serious problem with outflows from the fund, in almost a quarter since Mr. Akre formally separated himself from day-to-day management at the end of December, 2020. Firm assets Continue reading →

May 1, 2024

By David Snowball

Dear friends,

Welcome to the May issue of Mutual Fund Observer. We’re glad you’re here.

May marks the end of my 40th year of teaching at Augustana College. (And no, they’re not free of me yet. I’m back again in the fall!) It’s an amazing place that has grown a lot over the course of my career. We were founded in 1860 by educated immigrant parents who were anxious to preserve the traditions of their (Scandinavian) homelands while Continue reading →

The Quality Anomaly

By David Snowball

There’s so much we can’t explain:

What’s the universe made of? (Hint: it doesn’t actually seem to be “matter and energy”)

What lives in the ocean’s “twilight zone”? (“It’s remote. It’s deep. It’s dark. It’s elusive. It’s temperamental,” according to Woods Hole … perhaps the most mysterious and vital space on the planet)

What killed Venus? (The planet, not the goddess. Best guess is that it Continue reading →

Briefly Noted

By TheShadow

Fidelity Investments is planning to charge a $100 servicing fee when placing buy orders on exchange-traded funds issued by nine firms. The new servicing charge, which may be imposed on ETFs issued by Simplify Asset Management, AXS Investments, Day Hagan, Sterling Capital, Cambiar, Regents Park, Rayliant, Adaptive, and Running Oak, is set to take effect on June 3. The new fee will apply to ETFs that do not participate in a maintenance arrangement with Fidelity.  Fidelity may update its “Surcharge-Eligible ETF” list again.    

Poster Rforno noted that Calamos Investments LLC announced the launch of 12 structured protection exchange-traded funds which seek to provide 100% protection and equity upside to a predetermined cap over one-year outcome periods (before fees and expenses). The ETFs are Continue reading →

April 1, 2024

By David Snowball

Dear friends,

It’s April. I spent much of the Easter weekend wearing a t-shirt out to work in the gardens. It was glorious. Today, the forecast is for hail. Tomorrow? Snow.

Next week? Oh, I don’t know … dragon fire?

And still, it behooves us to be grateful for what we have. The world’s most corrosive force is not greed. It’s envy, which is driven by the sense that what we have just isn’t enough, and bitterness that others have more. That’s a theme that Charlie Munger reflected on repeatedly: “I have conquered envy in my own life. I don’t Continue reading →

Funds For Long-Term Tax-Efficient Investment (VTCLX, DGRW)

By Charles Lynn Bolin

It’s a good practice to take a thorough review annually of investment performance including fees and taxes. A dual-income household may accumulate a half dozen or more accounts because of tax characteristics, ownership, and goals. A good way to start is to list the accounts in order of planned withdrawals. The next step is to make sure that each account has the appropriate amount of risk and that the assets within are tax-efficient for the type of account. I am in the process of converting Traditional IRAs to Roth IRAs and the conversion is taxed as ordinary income. Municipal Bonds are included in Modified Adjusted Gross Income and may impact Continue reading →